The Calorie Fallacy

The Calorie Fallacy

One of the biggest myths of the last five decades is what we refer to LCHF Endurance as ‘The Calorie Fallacy’. For fifty years we have been told that weight gain or weight loss is a measure of energy in versus energy out, and therefore to lose weight you must simply be in calorie deficit. Through the 1970s and 1980s this lead to an abundance of calorie-counting diets, companies such as Jenny Craig and Lite 'n’ Easy, the invention of the points system (I’m looking at you Weight Watchers), ‘low-fat’,‘lite’ or non-fat ‘food-like’ products, and the popularity of slogging yourself at the gym to burn thousands of calories.

Read this: physiology is not maths, or physics for that matter. The point of this article is not to debate the first law of thermodynamics (which, by the way, refers to a closed system and is utterly irrelevant), but to share with you some great news - it’s not about eating less and exercising more. It’s about real food. Here’s why: 

1. Calories Are Not Created Equal

Our macronutrients (i.e. carbohydrates, proteins and fats) produce varying hormonal responses and therefore metabolic environments, which either promote or discourage fat storage.

  • Example A: Carbohydrates are equivalent to protein in energy, but when eaten in excess can lead to chronically elevated insulin levels. This is the recipe for fat storage. Long term this will create insulin resistance, the precursor to obesity and diabetes.
  • Example B: Fats are more than double the energy of carbohydrates and protein, but offer satiety and hormonal control – the keys to long-term fat loss. Healthy fats exclude refined seed or vegetable oils and trans fats, of course. On that note, low-fat food products belong in the bin. They are not whole foods and most of the time, they are higher in sugar than the full-fat version. See Example A.

2. Fat Loss is About Hormonal Control

Hormonal control comes not only from managing your carbohydrate intake (to control insulin), but also from controlling your stress. With efficient stress-management techniques, you manage the stress hormone cortisol and continue to promote a fat-burning environment. Eating less and exercising more are huge stressors for the body and ironically can lead to weight gain, often seen as the ‘cortisol pouch’ – that stubborn abdominal fat around your middle.

3. The Thermic Effect of Food

The amount of energy required to break down our macronutrients – known as the thermic effect of food – varies significantly. Your body burns far more calories digesting protein and fibrous vegetables compared to simple sugars like pasta, white bread or packaged cereals. Digestion actually requires a large amount of energy (this is a good thing!), which can be accelerated with better food choices. You can truly turn your body into a fat-burning machine.

 4. Food Quality Creates Natural Portion Control

If you focus on food quality, the quantity will take care of itself. After all, it’s very uncommon to overeat broccoli or binge on chicken. Fill your plate with predominantly non-starchy vegetables, quality protein and good fats from salmon, avocado, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, and you will be so satisfied that you won’t go near the bread basket, or even consider that lemon meringue.

Disclaimer: You can still eat too much real food so we’re not encouraging gluttony, but 800–1200 calories is the recipe for metabolic dysfunction. Starvation is not healthy. The answer is to nourish your body with food as nature intended.


More on this in my upcoming book, Low Carb Healthy Fat Nutrition - now available on Booktopia at 25% off!

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